Not long after Barry Giller started his job as head of school at Charlotte Christian School, he decided the focus on “educating the whole child” needed to extend to the dining hall.So he took it over.School leaders had discussed how Americans struggled with healthy eating and how more children are have diabetes and other obesity-related issues. They noticed that fast food runs were common after school, and at lunch many students were eating fried food and chips and drinking soda.“We felt like we were missing a chance to help our students grow and learn,” Giller said. “We didn’t feel comfortable continuing to put that food in front of students on a daily basis.”After almost a year of research, focus groups and discussions, in early 2012 Giller laid out a new approach to food in his annual “state of the school” address to parents.The school would no longer sell packaged and processed foods. The price of an all-you-can-eat lunch would now be included in tuition, a cost increase of about 5 percent.Soda machines would be removed. The school would no longer serve peanut better or cook with nuts. The dining hall’s food service area would be completely renovated.“While everyone else seems to throw their hands up and say, ‘Oh we cannot change children’s diets,’ CCS did not remain apathetic,” parent Cathy Oliveto, who is a registered dietician, wrote in an email. “They took action. They said, ‘We can do this!’ ”The new food courtThe newly renovated Charlotte Christian dining hall resembles a high-end food court. Students can choose daily from two homemade soups, a salad bar, a hot bar and a panini bar.For drinks, the school provides unsweetened tea, apple juice, lemonade, milk, chocolate milk and water. Chef David Stowe also includes a “spa water” flavored with fresh fruit or vegetables such as berries or cucumbers.On a recent school day, first-graders filed through the line with trays filled with fruit, yogurt, brown rice and soup. There was not a bag of chips or french fry in sight.CCS works with food service provider FLIK, which operates and staffs the dining hall, including Stowe and executive chef Christopher Zion. The new food program required the school to double the number of dining hall employees. The program has brought big changes in the school’s kitchen. The fryer, once front and center in daily food preparation, is now relegated to a corner.“I don’t miss the fryer at all,” Stowe said. We’ve almost had to relearn how to cook in the same kitchen.”As for students, they don’t seem to miss the fryer much either. Some students say they eat soup every day. Others have tried – and found that they liked – everything from sautéed zucchini to cantaloupe.Seventh-grader Terrell Brown described the dining hall’s stuffed peppers as “amazing” and said he now eats a lot more fruits and vegetables, in part because he likes the way the chefs prepare them.Another benefit, especially to older students and athletes, is that students can eat all they want. Previously, students were charged for lunch and extra for a la carte items.“It was just crazy expensive,” said Chandler Goodson, a CCS senior. “I would just eat a little bit here and then go back home and eat. Now you’re full every day.”Creating role modelsThe new food program also requires CCS’s faculty and staff to eat in the dining hall; previously many ate at their desks while they worked.Candace Gowan, CCS communications specialist, said the new mandate has prompted much more interaction between employees, and many enjoy the healthy food choices.“It creates a role model for the students because we’re all eating the same things,” Gowan said.Giller said there was a little pushback from parents when the program was initially announced. Many now report benefits from not having to pack lunches, cost savings and children who more willing to try new foods.Olivet’s daughters Julia, 10, and Sophia, 7, attend CCS, and Olivet said she and her husband have been thrilled that the school has removed junk food.“We love that (our daughters) talk about having a colorful, healthy plate … and that they are eager to eat salads and sides of vegetables and are getting more comfortable with not having to have chips and cookies as an expected part of the mail,” she wrote in an email. Gowan said her daughter has reported trying everything from brisket to tomato soup. Goodson plays basketball and said he has noticed a difference in his health this year. When athletes and other students don’t have time to go home to eat between school and games or practices, Stowe provides healthy snacks and meals.“I have practice every day, and I have so much more energy and stamina when I’m running,” Goodson said.
Friday, Jan. 25, 2013
Charlotte Christian revamps cafeteria, lunches
Charlotte Christian revamps lunches, cafeteria
Charlotte Christian School dining hall staff serve elementary-age students on a recent weekday, when choices included yogurt, fruit, cheese sandwiches and tomato soup. MARTY MINCHIN
Elementary students' trays are filled with healthy food during lunch time at Charlotte Christian School.
Executive chef Christopher Zion, left, and chef David Stowe stand at Charlotte Christian's new hot bar in its renovated dining hall. COURTESY OF CANDACE GOWAN
Charlotte Christian’s New Dining Hall Features include: • A daily “allergy board” shows students which foods contain ingredients such as eggs or gluten. • All food is made from scratch, including sauces. • Older students can make their own sandwiches on commercial-grade Panini grills. • The school replaced paper goods with reusable plates and silverware. • Dessert is served twice a week. • Parents can join students for lunch for $5.